Patrick Sullivan, M.A.


Patrick earned his bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Maryland with a double major in Elementary Education and Theology; from there he went on to earn a Master’s degree in Theology, with a specialization in Catechesis from the University of Notre Dame. Prior to Divine Mercy Academy, he worked for ten years at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC and is currently finishing a post-graduate certificate program in Catholic school leadership through Villanova.

Raised in an Irish-Catholic home, Patrick learned early on the importance of great stories, rich songs, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and, of course, the joy of vibrant family life. Hailing from Long Island, he also learned that the best pizza and bagels can only be found back home. Today, Patrick is an avid long distance runner and competitive marathoner. When not at school or out running, he loves spending  time with his wife and daughters - usually reading plenty of books, playing with Lego, and watching the NY Mets.

A lover of the saints, Patrick is particularly moved by the examples of everyday holiness found in the lives of men and women like Pier Giorgio Frassati, Zelie and Louis Martin, Karol and Emilia Wojtyla, and, of course, St. Joseph. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.” Patrick is thrilled to be a part of this extraordinary Divine Mercy family.

Mary Forest

Head of Admissions

Mary Forrest was raised in the Annapolis area. She earned her B.A. in Philosophy at Christendom College; a Catholic liberal arts school in Front Royal, Virginia. She taught history, literature, and drama for two years at Aquinas Academy, a small Catholic liberal arts K-12 school in Bear, Delaware. She then went on to work in Admissions at Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School in the Diocese of Arlington. In 2016, she returned to Maryland and occupied her time with raising her family. She is mother to three wonderful children and is grateful to be a part of the engaging and faith-filled DMA community.

Jacqueline Dolch

Office Administrator

Jacqueline Dolch is a Maryland native and mother to three children aged 13, 12, and three. She has been married to her husband, Michael, for 16 years. She and her husband lived in the Greenville, SC area for 13 years where they enjoyed a rich, authentically Catholic parish and school. She volunteered in a variety of positions at both their parish and school until she was hired as the school secretary in 2017.

The Dolch family relocated to Pasadena at the end of 2019 to be near family and enrolled in Divine Mercy Academy for the 2021-2022 academic year. After working in corporate America for over a year, she is excited to be back working in Catholic education. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, baking, and gardening.

Claire Horvath

Office Administrator

Claire Horvath has been married for 40 years. She is the mother of 4 and Nana to 10! She and her husband Dave have run a successful small business for 30 years. Their girls grew up working in the store and now one of their daughters has taken the reigns. 

The Horvath family moved to Pasadena in 2001 and joined St. Jane Frances Parish where they jumped in to help where they could. In 2011, Claire was asked to change her status at church from volunteer to employee and took on the position of Youth Minister. During her 8 years in this role, she helped build a dynamic youth program for both high school and middle school youth as well as an Altar Server program for the church. Highlights for her were the week long "Work Camps" with the older youth.  

Claire was asked to move from Youth  Ministry to Administrator of Family Formation at the parish in 2019  when that position became available. She spent a year and a half working to solidify the family formation programs as well as working with all who wanted to receive sacraments. Claire joined DMA in 2021. 

Megan McHale, M.Ed.

Humanities Tutor - Kindergarten

Megan McHale grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and holds a master’s degree in Special Education from Duquesne University. After  moving to Maryland in 2005, she spent four years as a Special Education teacher in Howard County, instructing elementary school children with various disabilities and supporting their needs in general education classrooms.

Megan and her husband have four boys. She homeschooled for eight years, has taught classes for several Catholic homeschool cooperatives, and is a Level 1 catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. In all settings, she seeks to motivate and engage her students in learning new skills by drawing upon their individual strengths and interests.

In addition to her background in education, Megan also has a great love for the arts. She studied ballet from the age of 10 through college and still relishes the thrill of stepping inside a theater to attend a musical or dance performance. She is excited to be at Divine Mercy Academy where she can freely pursue truth, goodness, and beauty!

Susan Lawson

Tutor Aide

Susan grew up in the Catskill mountains of New York and earned her Bachelor’s degree from Fordham University with a double major in History and Theology and a minor in Italian language. She had a focus in Medieval history and the early 20th century Catholic immigrant church in America. She continues to have a passion for learning history from all eras and travel to areas of historical significance.

Susan has been a devoted wife to her Naval Aviator husband, LCDR Christopher Lawson and full-time mother to their four sons, Dimitri, Andrew, Daniel, and Patrick. Having moved from coast to coast every few years, the Lawsons are fortunate to have been homesteaded in Maryland for the past 8 years. They are parishioners at Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville, MD.

Raised in a devout Irish-Italian Catholic household, Susan has a special devotion to numerous saints and the Blessed Mother. Her parents instilled in her a love of the traditions of the Church and sacred music and art. She was fortunate enough to grow up near the place where St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born and the Jesuit Saints Goupil, Jogues, and LaLande were martyred. As a teen, she made several pilgrimages there, and now enjoys taking her children to the shrine in Auriesville, NY and teaching them about the saints. While at Fordham University, she attended Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on Arthur Avenue and joined the choir, singing at the Italian High Mass every Sunday. She also, as her senior thesis, wrote the 100th Anniversary Parish History of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and its impact on the Italian-Americans in the Bronx.

While new to Divine Mercy Academy, Susan has been heavily involved in Classical education for over 10 years. In both Corpus Christi, TX and Crownsville, MD, her children have been enrolled in Classical Christian schools where she has volunteered hundreds of hours, providing assistance to her children’s teachers, planning special events, cooking for the Greek and Roman festivals and Cowboy feasts, and guest lecturing history classes. Susan is thrilled to have her children attend a Classical Catholic school and be able to work at her children’s school.

Cathy Sitzwohl

Tutor Aide

Cathy started her career out of Loyola College in 1987 as a Systems Analyst before pursuing a certificate in Early Childhood Education. Teaching in the public school system did not last long before she became an Administrative Assistant for Software Consortium. Cathy gave up that job after eight years to raise her two children, which included homeschooling them through eighth grade. She is very involved in several ministries at her parish, St. John the Evangelist, including a Spiritual Bouquet Ministry for the clergy, the Seven Sisters Apostolate, the Mental Health Companions and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. She loves to travel and pilgrimage to new places and points out that her favorite pilgrimage was to the Holy Land in the Fall of 2022.

She has been married to her husband, Mark, for 21 years and with her children going to school in opposite directions of their home in Millersville, Cathy is a firm believer in doing God’s will and what friends told her years ago, that it takes a village to raise a child. She is excited to be able to share that which is true, beautiful and good with the children at DMA, where she substituted in prior years.

Carmen Hacker

Kindergarten aide

Carmen Hacker is a native of Lima, Peru and one of six children, all of whom attended the Fe y Algeria Catholic School in Lima, run by the religious order of the Society of Jesuits, founded by St. Ignacious of Loyola.   

Carmen emigrated to the U.S. in 1994 and spent many years in Northern Virginia where she was close to family, and worked for nearly 20 years as a Pension Benefit Assistant for a Laborers International Union in Washington DC.   She assisted in nurturing the spiritual growth of pastoral groups of female students aged 12-17 through church ministry, catechism, camping, silence retreats, and pilgrimage to special religious feasts and events.   The Youth Leadership Schools were based at several  Northern Virginia Catholic Churches in the area, Our Lady of Angels in Woodbridge; Good Shepard in Fairfax; and All Saints in Manassas.  

Carmen also participated in Faith Formation and Bible Studies through the Yuma Center in Washington DC, a Woman’s Leadership Organization which explores new perspectives on work and daily life.   Carmen lives in Annapolis MD with her husband Karl and son Andrew, a kindergarten student at Divine Mercy Academy. 

Carmen feels fortunate and blessed to be a part of Divine Mercy Academy, and be given the opportunity to shared her knowledge, experience and passion for growing the Catholic faith in God’s children.  Reading, biking, gardening and other outdoor activities are hobbies that Carmen enjoys.p

Anne Marie Kubik, RN

Humanities Tutor - 1st Grade

Anne Marie Kubik graduated from Villanova University in 1999 with a BS in nursing.  Upon graduation she was commissioned as an officer in the Army Nurse Corp.  She served honorably for six years specializing in OB/GYN with various assignments in HI, CA, and VA. She volunteered as an instructor for Sacrament prep/Faith Formation for two years while on Active Duty.   She entered civilian life in Maryland as a postpartum nurse and lactation consultant at Saint Agnes Hospital.  She volunteered for seven years performing Ultrasounds and teaching parenting classes at the Severna Park/Annapolis/Bowie Pregnancy Clinic.  She has been married for 16 years and has 4 children whom she homeschooled using a classical Catholic curriculum for the last nine years.  She is excited to join the staff at Divine Mercy Academy and share in their vision of making saints.  When not in the classroom, you can find her on a hiking trail enjoying God’s creation.

Lisa O'Keef

Humanities Tutor - 2nd Grade

Mrs. O’Keefe graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1998, dual majoring elementary education (K-8) and special education (Birth-21). She then taught in the Tucson Arizona public school system from 1998-2001. After marrying and starting a family, she chose to stay home and homeschool for 10 years.   She and her family moved to Maryland in 2004, where she came into the Catholic faith during Easter of 2005 at St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park. Since then, she has instructed in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and taught preschool through third grade classes. An avid hockey fan, when she is not spending time with her husband and four children, she is cheering for the “Caps”, reading, doing puzzles, organizing things and people, and traveling to new locations. 

Debra Kampsen

Nature Studies Tutor and 2nd Grade Tutor Assistant

Debra comes to us from the St. Thomas Aquinas Tutorial, where she taught fourth grade for four years and is a longtime enthusiast and advocate for Catholic classical education. A home schooling mom of four grown children, she was at the beginning of the home school movement in Europe while living in Germany as a military spouse. She found inspiration from the likes of Charlotte Mason, Dorothy Sayers and Mortimer Adler.

While home schooling her own children, Debra also worked with the Stuttgart area home schooling co-op where she developed a love and expertise in the instruction of classical literature and poetry.

She has a background in music and studied under classical pianist Vasilios Boobas. Debra has also worked professionally as music director in Annapolis, where she also currently teaches piano lessons in her private home studio.

Cheryl Shoots, M. Ed.

Humanities Tutor - 3rd Grade

Cheryl has been in the educational field for over 40 years. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree with a combined focus in special and elementary education along with graduate work at the University of Maryland focusing on Human Development. 

Cheryl's teaching background includes classroom teaching from PK-8th grade, resource teaching at the elementary and high school level, homeschooling, and working as a teacher consultant. She has taught parenting classes and truly enjoys working with parents of her students.  As a member of a grant writing team, she was able to partner with Johns-Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to research and develop a program to assist elementary school teachers with their “math phobia!”  This opportunity paired very well with a passion of Cheryl’s  (although the students were much older!) - to make sure that every student in her classroom comes to realize what a gift they are to all and what their God-given gifts are that they are called to share with others.

Cheryl and her husband, Craig, have 4 children and 4 beautiful grandchildren. They have lived in various places over the years, but have been very happy being Maryland residents for 40+ years. 

Eileen Chey

Humanities Tutor - 4th Grade

Eileen Chey holds a Bachelors degree in Studio Arts from William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. She has worked with children for more than ten years as caretaker and camp counselor, but also directed the K-8 summer program at Oak Knoll School (NJ). She taught third grade in a private school (Koinonia Academy) for two years and volunteered in young adult ministry events for the Archdiocese of Newark, where she met her husband Sam. She volunteered in his parish ministry programs, accompanying the youth group on mission trips and to conferences before they were married in 2009. Eileen homeschooled her older two children for two years, working with a Montessori-focused co-op. Sam and Eileen decided to leave their lake town life so her husband could pursue an opportunity to work in ministry with the Archdiocese of Baltimore. She was grateful to find Divine Mercy Academy and is enjoying teaching and praying with the children and connecting with their families.

Rina Brown

Humanities Tutor - 5th Grade

Rina, born and raised in Ohio, has been married for 30 years, and has two wonderful children, and a feisty poodle. She graduated from Youngstown State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and worked in the actuarial field as a pension consultant. She then moved to Europe, for an exciting 3 ½ year adventure, where she traveled extensively and taught conversational English.

She started her journey in classical education over ten years ago and continues to hone her skills by participating in various learning opportunities. She loves the freedom of Catholic liberal education and the honor it pays to God’s creation by respecting each student’s mind, body, and soul.

Rina enjoys volunteering as a Master Gardener, hiking and walking with her family, reading, working on art projects and trying new recipes. You might also see her and her husband riding their tandem bike on the B & A trail! She also enjoys traveling with her family to the beautiful U.S. national parks.

She loves working together with DMA parents to help their children grow in faith, virtue, and wisdom.

Jack Grimes

Humanities Tutor - 6th Grade

Jack Grimes is the sixth grade humanities tutor at Divine Mercy Academy.  He was formerly the Director of Math Content Development for the Classic Learning Test, a new college entrance and high school assessment exam. Jack also teaches Geometry at Israel Henry Beren High School, the secondary school for Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Pikesville, and he was a founding faculty member for Chesterton Academy of Annapolis. Jack earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Political Science from Tufts University.  He worked several years as Senior Legislative Aide for a State Assemblyman in New Jersey. 

After beginning graduate studies in Theology at Seton Hall, he discovered a passion and talent for teaching, which he put to use as a volunteer catechist and later as a full-time academic mentor for BrainStorm Tutoring.  For more than five years with BrainStorm, Jack worked with hundreds of students to prepare for all sections of the SAT and ACT, as well as improve in their high school Math and Humanities courses.  Jack continues to offer tutoring privately through St. Catherine Test Prep.

Raised as a nominal Lutheran, Jack experienced a profound Evangelical conversion to love for Christ at the end of high school.  Fervent pursuit of understanding the faith in college led to his reception into the Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday a few years after graduation. Jack enjoys steering students towards reflection on the reality behind the grammar, reading, and math they are studying.  As a tutor and teacher he love to encourage thought about invisible nouns and intangible verbs, the power of questions and distinctions, and the elegance of equations so that his students have a chance to ponder the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Kathy Kirby

Humanities Tutor - 7th Grade

Kathy Kirby obtained a BA in Political Science from Loyola College, Baltimore, after spending many childhood years with her family living in West Germany. She was both an active and reserve US Army officer before she and her husband Larry began raising their family, primarily in Severna Park, minus a 4-year assignment in Germany and 6 months in New Jersey. They have been married for 33 years and have seven children, ages 32-14, and one beloved daughter-in-law.

Kathy and Larry completed 24 years of homeschooling their children (all through 8th grade) in June 2023 and co-founded the St. John Paul II Academic Co-operative as well as St. Thomas Aquinas Hybrid Tutorial (Millersville) somewhere in-between. Kathy taught 7th grade Humanities for six years before spending Fall 2023 traveling with youngest Child.

Kathy loves to promote Eucharistic Adoration and hopes to encourage awareness and wonder of God’s Presence in her students.  2 Corinthians 3:18: “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Jeanette Cohn

Humanities Tutor - 8th Grade

Jeanette Cohn has been teaching for 36 wonderful years.  She began her professional career in the medical field working as a private duty nurse.  She became involved with homebound children and felt the call to teach.  In 1985, she earned her bachelor’s degree at USF in Exceptional Education with a minor in Early Childhood Development.

Jeanette was employed in public and private school systems for 13 years working mostly with special needs children between 6 months and 12 years old.  In 1998, she answered the call to home school her 7 children and continued in the vocation for 21 years.  During those 21 years she mentored parents in formational education and tutored children in various facets, including homeschool tutorials and private tutoring, mainly in the areas of reading, writing and Literature. 

Jeanette educational philosophy encompasses a strong passion to embrace each child as being uniquely, beautifully created and, thus, should be taught as such.   Igniting their love for learning, she approaches her instruction on the specific formation of each child engrossing him/her in engaging conversation, implementing memorization, while fostering a desire to explore every aspect of learning.  She loves working at Divine Mercy Academy cooperating in the mission of helping each child become what God intended.

Liz Chapman

Middle School Science and Math Tutor

Liz Chapman did not take a traditional path to becoming a teacher.  Graduating from Gordon College with a double major in Political Science and Journalism she made her way to Washington, DC after graduation and started working for Senator Santorum (R-PA).  Her husband, Tim Chapman, also worked on Capitol Hill.   Starting out answering phones, giving tours, and talking with constituents she loved the fast paced atmosphere of Capitol Hill.  Liz soon became personal writer and speech writer for the Senator.  After several years with the Senator she was ready for a change and moved to K St. and worked for Wiliams and Jensen, PLLC handling events, political fundraisers, and working with clients on ethics.  During this time, Liz and Tim started a family.  After finding out she was pregnant with her third child, Liz decided to stop working and stay at home.  She quickly found that she loved being home with her children and started homeschooling.  She spent all of her free time researching curriculum, different educational methods, and the best books to read.  At this point, she started tutoring at a local classical conversations community on Capitol Hill.  She taught 4 to 6 year-olds in science, history, math, art, music, latin, and grammar.  Her children loved the repetition and recitation of the classical method when paired with reading rich classics.  

At the same time, Tim and Liz were also looking for a church home on Capitol Hill and while Liz was raised Presbyterian and Tim was raised Anglican, they fell in love with St. Peters on Capitol Hill.  In 2012, they converted to the Catholic faith.  This further enriched their homeschooling as they began living through the liturgical year together as a family.  In 2017, after outgrowing their townhouse on Capitol Hill due to the birth of a fourth child, they moved to Davidsonville, MD.  Last June, a friend mentioned Divine Mercy Academy and after touring they were sold.  Liz was also looking to dive more into teaching and didn’t hesitate when they offered her a job as first grade teacher.  She truly loves being a teacher and opening up her student’s eyes to the joys of the classics, grammar, Latin, math, history, and science and her faith is constantly deepening as she learns from her students and their families.

Laura Pontzer, Ph.D.

Middle School Math Tutor

Laura Pontzer has been married for 25 years and is blessed to be the mother of six children.  She has been homeschooling since 2004 and has enjoyed learning alongside her kids.  Raised in Maryland, she attended Connecticut College where she studied Chemistry and Math as an undergraduate.  She continued her education at Johns Hopkins University where she earned a master’s and a doctorate degree in bioorganic chemistry.  She is trained in Level I Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and cherishes her time spent in the atrium.  Several of her children attended St. Thomas Aquinas Tutorial where she has enjoyed tutoring for the past five years in both science and math.  She loves Catholic classical education and was a founding board member of Chesterton Academy of Annapolis where she has served for the past four years.  Her passion is assisting her students in finding Truth while reaching their individual God-given potential.  Outside the classroom she enjoys running, hiking, and spending time with her family, including her golden retriever.  She is grateful for the opportunity to join DMA and excited to teach Algebra I this year.

Christine Butrim, M.Ed.

Tutor Trainer

Christine received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Special Education from the University of Maryland, College Park.  She has taught in a variety of settings including public school, private parochial school and home school co-ops and tutorials.  She is skilled at integrating curriculum and inspiring wonder in her students.  Beyond her own classroom, she has experience developing educational support plans for students with learning challenges.  Christine and her husband have been married since 1989 and have two adult children. She has lived in the area for over 20 years. 

Mary Etta Jeske

Sacred Art Tutor

Mary Etta Jeske is a mother of three children and has been married for 31 years. She has home-schooled her children for nine years, and enjoys teaching Art History, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and Classical Fine Art. Mary Etta has been a classical fine artist and an art teacher since 1993. A business major in college, she additionally attended four years at The Mitchell School of Classical Fine Arts and is certified to teach level 1 in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She served for many years as an office manager for the Allview Center for Family Enrichment, where she presently volunteers and teaches an art/home arts girls' club.

Catherina Marshall, M. DMT.

Physical Education and Dance Tutor

Catherina is excited to continue to be part of the DMA team as a teacher of physical education and dance. A native of Peru with French ancestry, she brings to the position a lot of creativity plus a rich cultural background and a lifelong passion for human expression through movement.

As a child and a youth, Catherina studied ballet and performed at the Municipal Ballet of the
cosmopolitan city of Lima during the school year while attending a renowned British academy (San Silvestre School). She spent her summers on her family’s remote dairy farm in the Andean highlands where she helped to teach catechism to children. Later she obtained a social anthropology degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in 2006 and studied dance in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Catherina earned a Master’s degree in Dance Movement Therapy from the University of Barcelona, Spain, in 2008.

Returning to Lima, Catherina started her own independent dance movement therapy practice where she focused on special needs children. There she found ways to enrich her work by incorporating her Catholic faith into the methodology. In 2013, she married and moved to the United States. Catherina is the mother of Sofia and Teresita and enjoys tremendously dancing with her husband and daughters. Inspired by them as well as by last years’ experience of teaching PE and dance at DMA, she is in the process of putting together a prayerful methodology for teaching classical barre with the goal of building up a dance crew for the school.

Kelly O'Connor

Ward Music, Band and Orchestra Tutor

Kelly O’Connor, mother of seven children aged 21-6, holds 15 years of homeschooling experience, including three homeschool cooperatives. She has worked as a parish music director for three years, and served on liturgical teams across 10 parishes.

A Michigan native and Marine Corps spouse of 24 years, Kelly and her husband have lived in 13 different duty stations. Her extensive travel has given her an appreciation for multiple cultures and diversity in a growing world. A parental advocate for special-needs children, she is experienced in accommodating students that require more tailored care for success. She studied Instrumental and Choral Music Education at Central Michigan University, and is passionate about Biblical theology, History, Literature, Jazz and Classical music. 

As a teacher of History, Religion and Band, Kelly will strive to connect students with God’s Master Story for salvation, and inspire them to see His hand throughout all of human history.  A convert herself to Catholicism, she brings a strong empathy for children as they begin to choose and embrace the Faith for themselves. 

Monica Ruppert

Latin Tutor

Monica Ruppert holds a BA in Music Education from The University of Notre Dame of Maryland. She is a veteran homeschooler of her 10 children and is distinctly dedicated to family-centered education. She believes Divine Mercy Academy will support families as essential building blocks of an ardent Catholic community on the front lines of The New Evangelization. Monica implemented the Ward Method of music education at Divine Mercy, a classical program rooted in and directed toward Gregorian Chant, in which every child learns the art of singing, sight-reading, composing and conducting. After 25 years of teaching her own children as well as many others in co-ops, tutorials, and various other unique settings, Monica is excited to share her zeal for the catholic liberal arts the full-day setting of Divine Mercy Academy. With her natural talent for teaching children and her joyful confidence in classroom management, Monica is ever grateful each Monday for another week of sharing and discovering the revelations of God with her students.

Laurena Sarver, M.Ed.

Reading Specialist

Laurena's family has been her primary focus through the years, but she has also been blessed with opportunities to always continue to keep her hand in teaching as well. She has been married for almost 32 years to Lewis, a Montgomery County police officer. They have been active members of their parish. They have four children who have had the opportunity to attend Catholic schools. All four graduated from OLPH School. Their son attended Cardinal Gibbons and graduated from Mt. St. Joe’s, their daughters graduated from Mt. De Sales Academy. Three of their children have graduated from college, two are married and they are going to be grandparents in January! Their youngest will graduate from Franciscan University in May 2022.

Laurena's career in education began in a Catholic school where she taught second grade for two and a half years, and then third grade for half a year as a long-term substitute in the Washington Archdiocese. Her love for teaching reading began in college. She graduated from Towson State University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She earned her Master’s Degree in Reading Education from Bowie State University. She is certified in Orton-Gillingham and has used this approach to reading instruction as a private academic tutor for over 20 years. She enjoys working in a variety of settings so she also works part-time as a reading specialist. Being able to help struggling learners has become a passion of hers, and being able to do this in a faith-based setting is ideal for her. The opportunity to bring her faith into teaching reading is the best!

In her free time, Laurena loves spending time with her family and friends, going to the beach, walking, going to Christian music concerts, learning more about her Catholic faith, and volunteering at church and in her community.

Erin Tate M. Ed.

Special Education

Erin Tate is a Maryland native where, as far back as she can remember, the majestic beauty of the Chesapeake waters, and the delight she gained from fishing and crabbing with her dad and siblings inspired awe and wonder for God's creation. Her family raised her at St. Andrew by the Bay in Annapolis, Maryland where the rich mystery and Grace of the Sacraments planted deep seeds of faith in Jesus Christ.  Sprouting from these seeds grew strong Catholic roots in her soul that would undeniably ground her in Christ and a deep sense of the Catholic church being Home.

When Erin was 17, she met and fell in love with her highschool sweetheart, Jeremy Tate, at a Young Life Camp. The two dated long distance throughout college, but as Jeremy's evangelical Protestant convictions deepened Erin was challenged to hold on to the roots of her Catholic faith. Erin and Jeremy worked through century old debates about predestination, papal authority, the Eucharist, and Mary.  In 2005 Erin left the Catholic Church to support Jeremy on his journey to ordination in the Presbyterian Church. Unexpectedly, and only through God's providence, Jeremy got hooked on G.K. Chesterton in seminary and read his way into the Catholic Church. In 201o Jeremy was confirmed and Erin reverted back to the Church and their first son, Wells Tate, was baptized Catholic. Erin and Jeremy will celebrate 20 years of marriage next year. They have 6 children ages 17 down to 2, three of which have attended DMA. 

  After highschool , Erin went on to attend the University of Virginia, graduating in 2004 with a BA in Religious Studies. Upon graduation, Erin served for two years with Teach for America in Brooklyn, New York as an Elementary Special Educator. In 2006 she earned her Masters in Special Education from Pace University in Manhattan and Jeremy and Erin welcomed their first child, Grace Esther Tate. At the time, Erin and Jeremy lived in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn with Erin's Tia Esther and Bisabuela. Grace was brought home there to live with her great-great- grandmother (bisabuela).

Jeremy and Erin returned to Maryland where Erin taught for a total of 4 years in ACCPS schools earning her Advanced Professional Teaching Certificate. Upon her husband's conversion to Catholicism, from 2010 to 2016 Erin served as Director of Religious Education (DRE) at Saint Andrew by the Bay Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland. Her faith life had come full circle by God's Grace. During her time as DRE, she focused on empowering parents as their child's first catechist. She also championed incorporating children with special needs into the parish sacramental programs. Watching children receive the Eucharist for the first time and praying for each of them to deeply know His love was the highlight of this ministry.

   Erin's deepest joy in life is sharing the sacramental life in Christ fully with her husband as they watch their 6 children grow in His love.  She has homeschooled for seven years  and is thrilled to watch two of her children now grow at DMA. She is excited to join the faculty at Divine Mercy Academy continuing to remind children how deeply God cherishes them and how much he invites us to cooperate in His crazy, beautiful plans.

Ester Sesmero, Ph.D

Campus Ministry

Dr. Ester Sesmero was born in Spain. Right before she started college she heard the call from the Lord to consecrate her life to Him. In 2005 she joined the Secular Institute of the Crusaders of Mary while studying for her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry at the Autonoma University of Madrid. The Crusaders of Mary is a community of lay consecrated women who are passionate about the education of the youth. At Autonoma University of Madrid, she was heavily involved in campus ministry and through that experience of witnessing her faith in a secular environment, she learned what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. She arrived to the U.S. in 2011 and studied for her doctorate in Chemistry at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

Since Fall 2011, Ester has taught the Confirmation group (7th and 8th grade) at St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill and ministered to the youth attending the Youth Conferences at Franciscan University of Steubenville. During her time at UMBC, she started and led the Women’s group of the Catholic Retrievers (UMBC Campus Ministry). This women’s group is a community of women who support each other in their faith journey and the desire of to grow closer to Jesus and bring others to Him. Ester graduated with her Ph.D. on May 2017. From Fall 2017 to Spring 2019, she taught at Catholic University of America, Community College of Baltimore County, George Washington University and Montgomery College.

Ester is grateful for the opportunity to join Divine Mercy Academy. She is excited to teach our students to think critically, ask good questions and be in wonder and awe at gift of Creation. Her teaching philosophy is: "I believe in you, you are going to be able to do it, and I am here to help you!"